French Resistance during WWII. The ones that are available? Not always that good. Where does 1960's The Enemy General stand?
As the German army sweeps across Europe in the early 1940s, a resistance movement pops up and develops in France, men, women and children fighting back against the Germans in any way they can. Among one of the groups is an American O.S.S. officer, Allan Lemaire (Van Johnson), who helps train the recruits and coordinate the attacks on German positions and convoys. During one particularly costly attack, Lemaire's group believes they've accomplished their objective, killing a high-ranking German general (John Van Dreelen) held in high regard by Hitler. General Bruger survives though, organizing reprisals against a local French village. Months later as the Allies invade Europe on D-Day, Lemaire receives orders to rescue a German general sentenced to death by Hitler. The man they're supposed to save? General Bruger himself.
From director George Sherman, 'Enemy' kept popping up on a movie channel on cable so give me enough chances, and I'll do something about it. It isn't a well-known war movie in the least and features a cast without much in the star power. That's not a deal-breaker though, far from it actually. The biggest issue is that at 75 minutes 'Enemy' plays like an extended TV episode. The short running time gives the impression the story is always in a rush, but even with that said, not much is accomplished. Several sequences liberally use wartime footage of combat, of ships landing at D-Day, of soldiers hitting the beaches, of Nazi forces entering Paris. Wasn't there enough story? Wasn't there anything that could be done to flesh things out even a little bit? Apparently not, a short movie at 75 minutes that never really hits a stride in the old entertainment department.
A huge star in Hollywood in the 1940s and early half of the 1950s, Van Johnson wasn't at the height of his popularity by 1960. I often think of him as an actor who could play big, fun parts, Johnson's smile filling up the screen. And for this movie.....yeah, it's the polar opposite, his Lemaire a dark, brooding and revenge-seeking O.S.S. officer. There's potential with the character, but like so much else, it doesn't click. We never get much in the way of background other than that his fellow Resistance fighters highly respect him. His reason for revenge is as good as movie revenge gets, Bruger killing Lemaire's beautiful French fiance, Lisette (Dany Carrel), as part of a reprisal for a resistance attack. The chance for a good character is there, but Johnson doesn't bring much energy to the part, hamstringing things throughout the short running time.
Have you seen Von Ryan's Express? If you haven't, shame on you. It's one of my all-time favorites. Playing the easily despicable German general, Van Dreelen is a solid villain. Now it's good and bad all things considered. The story provides a little bit of a twist near the halfway point, but it doesn't really come as much of a surprise if you're even remotely paying attention. Still, Van Dreelen does a good job playing that oily, sinister German officer. Playing Lemaire's French sidekick, Jean-Pierre Aumont isn't given much to do other than look worried and play off Johnson's resistance leader. Also look for Jacques Marin and Hubert Noel as two resistance fighters.
Just a blah movie in the end. There's no urgency, no excitement as the story builds. Toward the end when the back and forth cat and mouse game should be wrapping up in exciting fashion, it just sorta ends. Things are wrapped up and then 'THE END' flashes across the screen. This is a flick not meant to be a classic, but I would have settled for mildly entertaining. Instead, it is a movie that's just there and nothing else. A disappointing result in the end.
The Enemy General (1960): **/****